A group of activists have come together to challenge food poverty by reviving a local community garden.

The Council-owned allotments beside Whiterock Leisure Centre, which had fallen into disuse, are once again being utilised to develop gardening skills and to grow fresh vegetables. 

Known as 'the People's Garden', the project is a collaboration between Springhill Community House, Anaka Womens Group, GROW, Bleach Green residents, Glór Na Móna and PPR.

It aims to support people and the natural environment through growing. 

Run by an eclectic mix of local residents - including refugees, asylum seekers, young people, Gaelgeoirí, pensioners, and people in sheltered housing - the People's Garden is promoting an ethos of self-help and mutual aid in the face of rising food poverty. 

Seán Brady from PPR explained: "Just before Christmas we (PPR and Whiterock Children's Centre) ran an auction to tackle food poverty and loads of different community groups are doing this type of thing,

"I don't know how many food banks there are in Belfast now, which is an indictment on our political and economic system. But lots of groups were doing mutual aid work, so we teamed up Whiterock Children's Centre and raised £8,000 to distribute to food banks.

"Most of the groups that we have been organising - refugees, asylum seekers, people on benefits or in poor housing - are always asking the question: why do people have to go to food banks? They've been developing innovative campaigns for decision-makers to act and alleviate food poverty. There's a whole menu of ideas there, but in the absence of decision-makers taking action you have to take action yourself. That's the ethos behind it."

He continued: "This place won't feed the whole community but it's about learning the skills, learning the how-to, and even just in terms of mental health and coming out of lockdown it's good for people to be able to together in safe outside spaces and to make a contribution."

He added: "They're all united by one principle; you get together, talk, and solve problems."

Faced with both an impending economic crisis and a growing climate crisis, it is hoped the People's Garden and similar community initiatives will inspire people to "take the lead" in prompting positive changes.

Seán added: "Ná habair é, déan é (don't say it, do it) - it is that ethos that comes from Bóthar Seoighe and everywhere else," he said. 

"No one else is going to take the lead, and communities have skills, talents, resources and space in abundance to take the lead. As long as decision-makers and people in government can, at least, not get in the way and, at most, provide proactive support."